The footwear market, especially Sneaker Culture, is fickle, cultish, and fundamental –all aspects that breed new trends and subcultures constantly.
While some brands may not have a sneaker line, the results here are still important to understand in terms of the general landscape of preferences, styles, and shopping patterns of this marketplace, particularly the explosion of footwear sales from online retailers. In addition, to many people within this age demographic, their footwear, particularly sneakers, can be their entire “outfit” because such emphasis is placed on their kicks –especially if they’re coveted LTD (limited edition) finds.
What brand of footwear do you like to wear the most?
What’s interesting right off the bat when looking at the top footwear brand preferences among 15-35-year-olds in North America, are that most of the top
15 brands mentioned are sneaker brands. This is one reason why sneaker culture in general is so vital to understand when it comes to streetwear and youth culture fashion. Nike tops the charts but just barely as the #1 preferred brand overall at 16.3%, followed by Converse at 15.7%, Vans at 15.4%, then it drops to Adidas at 6.7%, DC at 5.4%, and Puma at 5.2%. What’s also interesting to note overall are that many skate-inspired brands are within top brands in this marketplace, such as Vans, DC, Etnies, Adio –which continues to increase – MacBeth, DVS, and Circa. Over time this has made the mainstream sneaker brands take notice and re-adjust designs and campaigns as seen over the years with Nike and their limited-edition pieces (and corresponding hype in blogs), Nike SB of course, plus changes in the campaigns and designs among Adidas, Puma, New Balance, Reebok, Sketchers, Keds, and K-Swiss among others. They’ve either adopted new designs making their footwear crossover into lifestyle or fashionable sneaker culture, or attached with other lifestyle aspects, such as Draven with music, New Balance and K-Swiss with street and graffiti artists, and Sketchers with music and celebrities (as well as Keds).
In addition, it’s important to look at the top brands that are further down the list because generally in this competitive marketplace similar to T- shirts, denim, and fashion in general, the marketplace is moving in niche directions. There was once a time when Nike, for example, spiked with highest percentages, but now all of the percentages are lower as the market moves niche and more brands enter into preferred positions among consumers.
Finally when looking a top brands, it’s notable the amount of “older” brands that have made relatively successful comebacks into popularity such as Airwalk, Sketchers, and Reebok. And the music-inspired footwear brands that are moving in as well such as Fallen, T.U.K., and Doc Martens. What this shows is that old brands can re-invent themselves with a generation of consumers, if marketed properly, and that music-inspired footwear choices are also moving into style preferences of sneakers.
Steve Madden, ranked 12th overall, is the only “footwear” brand within the top
15 that isn’t a sneaker brand. Other fashion-footwear brands that are moving in include Diesel. While brands such as A Bathing Ape (BAPE) and Timberland, for examples, are relatively popular, on the large scale of favorites, they show up at .1%. While this may seem low, it’s important to note that because there are so many favorite brands, and this is a representative sampling across the entire nation, such brands still are relatively popular to be within the top part of the listing. If the percentages are 0% but still listed, it’s because overall the totals were less than 1% but that there was a strong group that prefers these brands which is why they remain ranked within the overall results.
By gender, there are always distinct differences in top footwear preferences.
The most obvious one which has lasted for several years are the high percentages of females who prefer Converse at 22.1% compared with 9.7% of males. Males clearly prefer Nike at 19.9% compared with 12.5% of females.
Because Converse is owned by Nike, however Nike has the advantage of also capturing that female marketplace, as well as younger demographic (see age charts). Vans on the other hand, while it’s higher among females at 18.7% compared with 12.3% of males, still has more consistent percentages generally speaking than say Converse, which indicates a crossover appeal. This is the same case as DC with 5.9% of males and 4.8% of females, and Puma with 5.2% of females and 5.2% of males. However, this is not the case with Adidas with 8.3% of males and 5% of females –even though the brand does have high preferences for both genders.
What’s interesting to note by gender are that more skate-inspired brands are attracting higher percentages of females, or creating a more equal preference level which can have a tremendous impact on sales.
In the case of Converse one reason it remains high on the radar is that even though it’s a quintessential punk American shoe, it’s a brand that comes in a variety of colors and is somewhat like denim–a staple in youth culture fashion –worn with dresses, skirts, shorts, jeans (but rarely for sports), and comes in a variety of colors, and is easy to customize.
By age groups, Nike spikes among 26-35-year-olds with 24.3% of this age group, whereas Converse has the inverse effect increasing in percentages the younger the demographic, and peaking among 15-17-year-olds at 18.5%. This is clearly one reason why Nike bought Converse years ago in order to tap into this passionate younger marketplace in footwear. Vans however has a similar characteristic to Converse in that it’s higher among younger demographics.
It’s important to note which brands do well in younger markets also in terms of future forecasting. Sometimes when a brand becomes too cemented as a preference among “older” demographics, younger demographics or new consumer groups may not be attracted to the brand because it’s considered too old or outdated (“my Dad wears that brand”). This has happened with brands such as Levi Strauss 10 years ago until their revitalization which has gone particularly well in Europe, as well as Quiksilver, which still feels the old- age syndrome especially in the wake of cutting-edge brands such as Volcom and Famous Stars & Straps.
Adidas has an interesting characteristic in that it tends to attract people from various age groups, peaking slightly among 18-20-year-olds and 26-35-year- olds. In a similar pattern of generally high percentages across age groups can be found also with DC. Puma has a strong following among 21-25-year-olds at 6.7% of this age groups, whereas brands such as New Balance, are considered an older brand with high percentages among 26-35-year-olds.